Carper, Colleagues Team Up on Spotlight Act to Shine Light on Dark Money in Politics

U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) to reintroduce the Spotlight Act to shine a light on dark money political donors and hold the government accountable to enforce our nation’s campaign finance laws. The Spotlight Act would require certain political non-profit organizations to disclose their donors to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), reversing a Trump-era rule that eliminated the requirement and allowed such organizations to keep their donors secret.


“Dark money in our politics isn’t a Democratic or Republican issue. It’s an issue that affects the health and integrity of our democracy. The Spotlight Act is a much-needed and common sense fix that will increase transparency by simply requiring political non-profits to disclose donors,” said Senator Carper. “It’s been said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. In order to protect our democracy and safeguard against hostile foreign intervention, we need to shine a light on dark money interests and ensure that all Americans have more transparency — not less.”


The Spotlight Act was first introduced in 2018 after the Trump Administration attempted to rollback a rule that required non-profit organizations engaged in political activity to disclose basic information about their donorsIn 2019, the Trump Administration successfully implemented a second rule to roll back disclosure requirements for those non-profit organizations (including 501(c)(4), 501(c)(5), and 501(c)(6) organizations). This rule allows dark money groups to hide the identities of their major donors.


The Spotlight Act would reinstate this rule, requiring non-profit organizations that engage in political activity—like donating to candidates and purchasing political ads—to provide the IRS with the names and basic information of donors who contribute more than $5,000. It would also prevent future Administrations from rolling the rule back again. In addition to ensuring these organizations are following the law, these disclosure requirements are an important tool to keep foreign actors from influencing American elections.


The Spotlight Act is endorsed by non-partisan campaign finance reform organizations End Citizens United, Democracy 21, and Common Cause.


“The IRS’s decision to give mega-donors and Big Money special interests more secrecy with their political spending goes against what the majority of Americans want. Voters deserve to know who’s behind the seemingly unlimited money that’s trying to influence their vote and their government,” said End Citizens United / Let America Vote Action Fund President Tiffany Muller. “We thank Senators Tester and Wyden for their leadership, and Congress should pass this legislation immediately. It would shine a much-needed light on political nonprofits that spend hundreds of millions of dollars every election cycle in the shadows.”


“Democracy 21 strongly supports the Spotlight Act, which overrides the irresponsible action taken by the Trump administration that eliminated the requirement for certain nonprofits to disclose their significant donors to the Internal Revenue Service,” said Fred Wertheimer, Founder and President of Democracy 21. “The removal of the contribution disclosure requirement opened the door for foreign interests to illegally launder money through nonprofit groups to influence our elections without the government having any ability to know about or track these actions. The Spotlight Act closes a dangerous dark money loophole for illegal foreign money to be secretly laundered into our elections.”


“At a time when corporate special interests funded by secretive billionaires always seem to get their way, it was outrageous that the Trump-led Treasury Department stopped requiring donor disclosure information for politically-active non-profits,” said Aaron Scherb, director of legislative affairs at the government watchdog Common Cause. “We commend Senators Tester and Wyden and Congressman Price for introducing the Spotlight Act to help shine a light on secret money in politics so that all Americans can see who is trying to influence their voice and their vote. We and our allies will also work to get President Biden’s Treasury Department to reverse this rule.” 


The text of the Spotlight Act can be found HERE.